BizVoice: Social Media Changes Landscape of Hoosier Politics

Longtime WTHR-TV political reporter Kevin Rader says he picks up “ripples” on Twitter or Facebook about posts that are gaining steam, getting retweets and likes, that make him take notice to a certain policy or official’s statement. “It’s almost like an immediate Nielsen Report that comes to your desk every day that you can look at and say, ‘Oh, this is interesting … or this is interesting,’ ” he notes.

John Zody, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, believes social media is “big” for candidates and officeholders – and not just in a reactionary sense. “You have to think about how people are receiving news. It’s not just one way (traditional media) or the other (social media). You’ve got to have the proactivity to get out there and make sure it’s communicated every single way and exhaust every possible resource.”

His counterpart for the Republican Party, Tim Berry, says “The advantage of social media is that you can talk directly to your constituents. You’re not taking through Kevin or the Indianapolis Star. You’re talking directly to your constituents and then that is shared – your perspective is shared. And that’s what people sometimes miss through the use of social media – the opportunity to talk directly to your intended target.”

But there does need to be caution with social media usage, according to Andrew Downs, IPFW political science professor and director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics.

“It has got to be part of an overall strategy. You can’t ignore it; you’ve got to be present. But if you let it dominate, which it’s easy to do, you will lose. It doesn’t play that big of a role yet,” he asserts.

Rader offers another example of how Twitter, for example, has changed his job.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been frustrated by people who have now realized, ‘Look, I don’t have to make a statement to the media. All I have to do is Tweet a little something out and I don’t have to answer a question.’ You find yourself thinking, ‘Oh boy, so are we really serving the people sitting at home?’ You don’t get any follow-up, anything in-depth and it’s become acceptable now.”

But what can the media do? It has little choice but to cover it. And as Downs quips, “Yes, you don’t have to answer questions. That’s the beauty of social media (for candidates).”

Read much more from this group in the September-October edition of BizVoice magazine, where they discuss the climate in the state and what to look for on Election Day. A related article in the same issue focuses on the use of “digital first” technology to reach voters.

Don’t Make These Social Media Mistakes

Here are some worthy reminders from Digital Relevance regarding mistakes you should avoid when using social media for your business.

Your tweets or Facebook posts are solely promotional.

Social media can be a good venue to share special sales and promotions, but don’t post these activities too often or your “fans” will drop you. People want to follow your company because you are helpful, informative and have something to offer.

You don’t interact with anyone.

It is called social media for a reason. It seems like a no-brainer, but a big no-no many companies make is not interacting with its followers. You should promptly respond to mentions, replies and retweets and continually check your Twitter feed to respond and reply to your followers. Be sure to answer comments or questions on Facebook as well.

You tweet too much or share too often.

Twitter is a much more continuous, open platform for sharing multiple times each day. You should tweet at least three to five times a day, but what’s more important is the quality and value of your tweets. Low-quality sharing won’t lead to much interaction. On average, top brands posted once per day on Facebook. If you post more than twice per day, you will typically lose engagement.

You only tweet or share posts about your business.

It’s not all about YOU. Your followers want you to be a resource for industry information, trending topics and every now and then they like to know what’s going on in your company, but they don’t always want to know about every single webinar, article or event. It’s good to show you are a real, successful business, but also illustrate your value as a resource that continually interacts with its followers.

You’re commonplace and uninteresting.

Just as writers have a unique style and voice, brands should have a unique voice that their audience understands and relates to. Form your unique voice based on your culture, community and conversation.

You repeat yourself, you’re totally automated and you repeat yourself.

Automation can help productivity and efficiency, but when it comes to social media, it can seem spammy, impersonal and excessive. Don’t tweet or share the same article multiple times a day or even multiple times a week. A helpful article can be shared multiple times for larger exposure, but spread out your coverage dates.

Avoiding these mistakes will help you build a strong online community that believes in your brand, considers you an essential resource and enjoys interacting with you.

How Can One Little #Symbol Go So Wrong?

Okay, I’m going to vent for just a minute about the degradation of my beloved English language.

I gripe every year when a host of new “words” are added to the dictionary. I do not agree that “selfie,” “squee” or “srsly” are actual words. Srsly? SERIOUSLY, Oxford English Dictionary? If only you could see my computer screen right now, you’d see all the little red squiggly lines under these so-called “words.”

As much as I loathe that, there is one thing that drives me crazier than almost anything else (almost anything else: the blanket usage of the Oxford comma is still No. 1 on my list of ridiculous things) – and that’s the misuse of hashtags and the fact that they’re infiltrating our communication.

We’ve all done it – used a hashtag on Twitter or Facebook to not describe or sort news (the reason hashtags were created in the first place), but to instead, make yourself look like you get this whole Internet thing. “Look ma! I can write the pound sign in front of phrases! My friends will think I’m the #bee’sknees!”

As they were originally intended – to sort news or topics and make it easy for readers to follow along with those subjects on Twitter – hashtags can be quite useful. Businesses can make great use of hashtags to promote specific products or events, or news topics that are relevant to the organization’s followers.

But past that, we must draw the line. No more using hashtag phrases in conversations! No more lazy or cutesy writing! Instead of giving me 12 hashtags to try to figure out what in the world you’re talking about, dig down deep and use actual words, phrases and sentences to describe what you are doing and how it makes you feel.

You are not too good for the English language.

Here is a funny little clip from "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" and special guest Justin Timberlake that personifies what might happen if we let this kind of nonsense continue.

Social Media Appeal

Social media has become a daily habit or necessity for most people. We feel the need to be plugged into Facebook, Twitter or some other site 24/7 to stay connected with the world around us, but do you trust the social media sites that you use?

You probably answered "no" to that question. A recent study done by E-Score found that people are less likely to trust social media brands and are twice as likely to trust traditional media brands (broadcast, cable and print).

This survey also produced other interesting data, including insights into online dating sites. Two online dating sites, eHarmony and Match.com, were among the highest ranked social media sites in terms of awareness, but they had the lowest appeal. E-Score says that this indicates “consumers’ displeasure with the process of using social media to find a companion.”

E-Score also found that the use of Twitter and Facebook seemed to be more out of habit or necessity since they are highly recognized and have a high number of monthly unique visitors, but have low appeal.

With people losing appeal for social media sites, could we be seeing the downfall of social media? Or will a new player come into the mix to keep social media from dying?

Some Lessons on Social Media from the Obama Team

Kyle Elyse Niederpruem of Kyle Communications (which I saw bring earn a Best of Show designation at the Hoosier PRSA Pinnacle Awards last week) wrote a column for Inside INdiana Business on some social media tips offered by the Obama for America team. Regardless of your thoughts on Pres. Obama's policies, you can likely glean some useful information here:

Here are four important lessons from Teddy Goff, who was digital director of Obama for America.

Experimenting with social media is critical.
Try and try again – and then try some more. Use multiple messages, different landing pages, switch out your word choices, and add lots of images if possible. Goff's team, for example, found that nouns in messages worked better than verbs (and probably counter to what most of us would do). Even word choices made a huge difference in fundraising.
Goff: "The most effective was raising money off the word – should."

Your social media team doesn't have to be large in numbers (or steeped in social).
People of all backgrounds were on the 250-person digital team. Guess how many managed the Twitter feed? Four. That's right. Four. Four people tweeted to the world. That meant consistency in tone, voice and keying in the analytics to push out the right kinds of messages at the right time – including undecided voters who can swing any election.
Goff: "There are three simple words in social – Don't be lame."

Your gut can be your most important guide.
In the bullpen of social media planning and in a group obsessed (rightly so) with analytics, many timely decisions by the digital team were made in the wee hours, without a lot of screening, and after a few beers. And like most good storytelling, an emotional link often gets the best reaction – like the most retweeted tweet of 2012.
Goff: "The most minute things make a big difference."

Being first and trying something new has its rewards.
Remember that in the first election of 2008, Facebook was half the size it is today. Twitter wasn't yet a strategic asset and the iPhone had just come out in the summer of 2007. The relationship between people and campaigns was dramatically changing. A number of tactics, like a website called the RomneyTaxPlan.com created by the Obama camp, had a constantly moving details button that never landed on a real plan. That was a more effective way to share a white paper by Obama than asking voters to read a white paper.

Tricky Social Media Rules on Whistleblowing

The California Chamber's HR Watchdog Blog delivers this complicated tale, explaining a potential victim can even be fired for improperly using social media to document undesirable behavior.

A tech company, SendGrid, recently fired a female employee, Adria Richards, who used Twitter to complain about sexual jokes made by male employees from a different company.

During a conference in San Francisco, Richards tweeted that it was “Not cool” that the men were making inappropriate sexual jokes. She used her phone to take a picture of the men sitting behind her and then used Twitter to post the picture.

One of the men in the photo was terminated by his employer, San-Francisco based PlayHaven.

But Richards also found herself in the middle of a social media storm and was ultimately fired by her employer. SendGrid CEO Jim Franklin blogged that Richards was not fired because she reported offensive conduct, but because of how she reported it – using Twitter to post photographs and “publicly shaming” the offenders.

Franklin also went on to say that Richard’s actions caused division amongst the developer community that Richards serves as part of her job and that she can no longer be effective.

But this is what often happens when an employee complains of inappropriate conduct: A complaint is made, which may create division at work and with customers; people may take sides. Regardless of such division and the ultimate outcome of any investigation, the employee is supposed to be protected from retaliation for complaining of harassment or discrimination.

This situation poses difficult questions: Can an employee complain in any manner he/she sees fit? Airing information across social media platforms and posting pictures of co-workers, customers or collaborators?

The law provides strong protections for those who complain about harassment or discrimination. As demonstrated by recent decisions by the National Labor Relations Board, the law also protects employees who engage in concerted activity with other employees to improve their working conditions — which may include employees complaining to each other over social media.

Finding the Vote Digitally and Socially

Some social media platforms may come and go in popularity, but the overall impact is only going to continue to grow. Assessing that impact in the 2012 presidential election is an Indiana Chamber partner in BIPAC (Business Industry Political Action Committee), focused on electing pro-economy, pro-jobs members of Congres.

Romney may have captured voters over 30, but he still lost. Obama on the other hand captured the women's vote, minority vote and youth vote, giving him the edge he needed to win. Digital and social media is where he found these votes and it's what set him apart from Romney. It is where he fundraised more than 700 million dollars and activated mobs of volunteers. He was able to reach more than 5 million youth votes via Facebook. Michelle Obama connected with women on Pinterest and the Obama campaign reached scores of Hispanic voters through mobile.
 
With 31 million election tweets being sent on Election Day, this cycle was not only deemed "The Twitter Election," but it is being characterized as the first full digital election. Social media is a fundamental change in how our society communicates and for those with hopes of reaching voters, employees, Members of Congress and other stakeholders, your efforts need to be online as well as offline.
 

Mashable Asks Facebook to Face 2012 Mistakes

Mashable takes Facebook to task for some of its mistakes in 2012. Granted, we all made mistakes in 2012 … remember (that embarrassing event) and/or (person I dated)? 

But regarding Facebook, the "hidden inbox" was the really frustrating one. Looked like I’d missed messages from people and they probably think I’m a jerk for not responding, when the fact is I’m a nice guy — and I’ll be the first to tell you that. Mashable relays:

3. Instagram vs. Twitter and the Rising Garden Walls
In a move that has gone largely unexplained, Instagram disabled support for Twitter cards in early December. Instagram links no longer propagate as photos in Twitter streams, and users who’ve married the two in their social media lives are frustrated.

It’s clear Facebook still views Twitter as an existential threat, and perhaps rightfully so. The two networks keep adopting each other’s features (Twitter incorporating media, Facebook becoming a real-time news feed). But killing Instagram’s Twitter integration is a classic "walled garden" move by Facebook, and a sign that if you still want to use Instagram, you’ll have to play by Facebook’s rules.

Who loses in this battle of APIs? Users, according to Mashable’s deputy editor Chris Taylor. I have to agree.

4. Facebook Messaging Gets Weird
We’ve had email since the ’70s. It’s not that hard to implement.

Yet baffling quirks in Facebook’s messaging system came to light in 2012.

The first was a "hidden inbox" that stored messages Facebook deemed unimportant. Users in late 2011 and early 2012 were surprised to find outdated communications from friends and family buried there. While this "Other" inbox was not a new feature, it became black mark on Facebook’s user experience in 2012.

Remember kids: Users, not algorithms, should determine what is and isn’t important.

Another bizarre feature that bubbled up this summer was "Message Seen" notifications — essentially, a read receipt that indicates when users see your messages, chats and group posts. You can no longer hide from unwanted Facebook communications. Your friend will know as soon as you’ve read (and ignored) that request to attend her poetry slam next Thursday.

Oh, and you can’t turn it off (not without some fancy browser extensions, anyway).

If that’s not enough, Facebook just rolled out a dandy new feature that lets strangers send you a message for $1. Get ready for spam, unsolicited pitches and long-lost stalkers.

Report: Facebook Worked to Get Out the Vote — Possibly Helped Dems

The Atlantic offers an interesting article about Facebook’s Election Day activities, and how the social media giant’s non-partisan efforts possibly helped Democrats by turning out more young and female voters.

Assuming you are over the age of 18 and were using a computer in the United States, you probably saw at the top of your Facebook page advising you that, surprise, it was Election Day. There was a link where you could find your polling place, a button that said either "I’m voting" or I’m a voter," and pictures of the faces of friends who had already declared they had voted, which also appeared in your News Feed. If you saw something like that, you were in good company: 96 percent of 18-and-older U.S. Facebook users got that treatment, assigned randomly, of course. Though it’s not yet known how many people that is, in a similar experiment performed in 2010, the number was *60 million*. Presumably it was even more on Tuesday, as Facebook has grown substantially in the past two years.

But here’s the catch: four percent of people didn’t get the intervention. Two percent saw nothing — no message, no button, no news stories. One percent saw the message but no stories of friends’ voting behavior populated their feeds, and one percent saw only the social content but no message at the top. By splitting up the population into these experimental and control groups, researchers will be able to see if the messages had any effect on voting behavior when they begin matching the Facebook users to the voter rolls (whom a person voted for is private information, but whether they voted is public). If those who got the experimental treatment voted in greater numbers, as is expected, Fowler and his team will be able to have a pretty good sense of just how many votes in the 2012 election came directly as a result of Facebook.

In a country where elections can turn on just a couple hundred votes, it’s not far-fetched to say that Facebook’s efforts to improve voter participation could swing an election, if they haven’t already. They’ve done a very similar experiment before, and the results were significant. In a paper published earlier this year in Nature, Fowler and his colleagues announced that a Facebook message and behavior-sharing communication increased the probability that a person votes by slightly more than 2 percent. That may not seem like a huge effect, but when you have a huge population, as Facebook does, a small uptick in probability means substantial changes in voting behavior.

"Our results suggest," the team wrote, "that the Facebook social message increased turnout directly by about 60,000 voters and indirectly through social contagion by another 280,000 voters, for a total of 340,000 additional votes." This finding — remarkable and novel as it may be — is in concert with earlier research that has shown that voting is strongly influenced by social pressure, such as in this 2008 study which found that people were significantly more likely to vote if they received mailings promising to later report neighborhood-wide who had voted and who had stayed at home.

Although months of door knocking, phone calls, and other traditional campaign tactics surely bring more people to the polls, those measures are expensive labor-intensive. Nothing seems to come even close a Facebook message’s efficacy in increasing voter turnout. "When we were trying to get published," Fowler told me, "We had reviewers who said, ‘These results are so small that they’re meaningless,’ and other reviewers who said, ‘These results are implausibly large. There’s no way this can be true.’ " In a country where elections can turn on just a couple hundred votes, it’s not far-fetched to say that, down the road, Facebook’s efforts to improve voter participation could swing an election, if they haven’t already.

Now it must be said that of course Facebook is not trying to elect Democrats. Facebook has an admirable civic virtue and has long tried to increase democratic participation in a strictly nonpartisan way. "Facebook," Fowler said to me, "wants everyone to be more likely to vote. Facebook wants everyone to participate in the fact of democracy."

But that doesn’t mean the effects of Facebook’s efforts are not lopsided. Outside of Facebook’s demographic particularities, there are reasons to believe that improved voter turnout in general helps Democrats, though there is a debate about this within political science.

In practice, though, there is no such thing as pure a get-out-the-vote, one whose tide raises all votes, and Facebook is no exception. It skews toward both women and younger voters, two groups which tended to prefer Democrats on Tuesday. Eighteen-to-29-year-olds voted 60 percent for Obama, compared with 37 percent for Romney. The next-older age group, 30-44-year-olds, gave Obama 52 percent of their support. Among Americans older than 45, Romney won. The implication is clear: If Facebook provides a cheap and effective way to get more people to the polls, and it seems that it does, that is good news for Democrats. For Republicans, well, it’s an uncomfortable situation when increasing voter participation is a losing strategy.
 

Make Sure NLRB Can’t Come Down on Your Social Media Policy

As if you needed more to deal with from the National Labor Relations Board, be sure that your social media policy is compliant with NLRB standards. Ragan offers this useful article, stating what you should keep in mind and how the NLRB has targeted one wholesale giant.

Here’s the deal. If a work rule has the potential to reasonably chill an employee’s right to organize or bargain collectively, it’s unlawful. Employees have the right to complain publicly if they think their employers’ labor practices are unfair.

So if I complain on Linkedin that someone else is making more than I do, and it’s unfair, that’s a protected activity. If you fire me for disclosing confidential salary information, you’re going to lose in court. It’s as simple as that, and if your social media policy prohibits it, you are opening your company up to a NLRB action.

Your social media policy cannot limit free speech

You don’t have to reference the National Labor Relations Act to violate it. If your social media policy uses language that restricts employees from using social media to "damage the Company, defame any individual or damage any person’s reputation" the NLRB sees it as restricting labor’s protected rights, because that social media policy it could have a chilling effect on what is seen a free-speech issue.

On the other hand, if the restrictions are subordinated to a clause on sexual misconduct or racial harassment, it would be allowed, as employees would be able to appreciate the rule in context. It’s the overly broad restrictions (often wrapped into social media policy) that the NLRB opposes. The best social media policies will be more exacting in their language.